Photographs posted online early Monday appeared to show the Russian Black Sea Fleet’s flagship on fire prior to sinking.
Two low-resolution photos taken from different angles showed a large warship - apparently the Moskva - engulfed in smoke and keeling over in open waters.
Few details about what happened to the Moskva have been disclosed since it sank off the Ukrainian coast last week, and the images - if authentic - are the first photos or videos to emerge of the stricken vessel, a 186-meter-long missile cruiser that was leading Russia’s naval effort in the war on Ukraine.
The photos of the burning warship first appeared shortly after midnight on a Telegram messaging app channel that positions itself as a Ukrainian signals intelligence resource.
It was quickly shared by other Telegram accounts, and on other social media.
“Looks like a legit photo of the Moskva after it was struck by Ukrainian Neptune anti-ship missiles,” military analyst Rob Lee said on Twitter.
While Russia claims its naval flagship sank during efforts to tow it to safety following an ammunition fire, Ukrainian military officials have said it was struck by Neptune missiles fired from Ukraine.
It was not immediately possible to verify the photo’s authenticity, or date of original publication, and there was no immediate confirmation from either Moscow or Kyiv.
It appears to have been taken from a vessel nearby, perhaps involved in the rescue attempt.
Military analysts say the Moskva’s loss is not only a symbolic defeat, but a blow to Russia’s ability to hit targets inside Ukraine.
Meanwhile, the Russian Defense Ministry posted footage Saturday of what it said was a gathering of the surviving sailors from the Moskva. But there were only about 100 of the approximately 510-man crew visible in the video.
Russian officials have not given any details about the number of sailors who were killed and injured during the sinking of the vessel.
A Moskva crew member’s wife confirmed the death of her husband, Ivan Vakhrushev, and said at least 27 other crew members were missing, the Radio Svoboda (RFE/RL) news website reported Saturday.